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UN Special Rapporteur Michael Forst visited Honduras this week and met with different social and governmental actors about the Human Rights violations taking place in the context of militarization experienced in the Central American country.
Forst expressed his concern over the lack of protection of human rights defenders, in a country where the Army has increased its budget by 161 percent from 2006 to 2016, is the entity in charge of managing the prison system and it has also created the Military Police body for citizen security.
As part of the meetings held by the UN Rapporteur, a public event titled “Protection of human rights defenders: scope and challenges” took place in Tegucigalpa on May 4, where Forst expressed his concern over the lack of protection.
Dr. Juan Almendárez, a long-time expert on the defense of human rights of peasant groups participated in the event and highlighted that currently Honduras is living under a “Police and Military State”.
“The people are suffering from hunger, poverty, unemployment, and those who fight for their rights are considered enemies of the Honduran State”, said Almendárez to the audience. He also stated that the protection of those who defend bodies, lives and territories “cannot be post-mortem”, with expressions of solidarity that are too late, when the damage has been done, and that it is necessary to join popular mobilizations in all stages.
Almendárez also warned that it is not possible to continue giving priority to civil and political rights over the rest of human rights, but we need to work in an intersectoral way for the defense of social and cultural rights.
Lastly, Almendárez recognized the work carried out at national and international level by María Soledad Pazo, an intern representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras (OHCHR).
Through recent reports, Pazo has denounced human rights violations in the framework of the post-electoral crisis in Honduras and the militarization in the country by surveying the responses given by the State –currently led by Juan Orlando Hernandez- “to the social protest that emerged after an electoral process that showed a concerning amount of irregularities”, said the Commissioner.
The OHCHR confirmed violations to the precaution, necessity and proportionality principles in the use of military and police force, confirming the presence of State violence: “In particular, the State of Emergency declared in the country (on December 1st, 2017) was filled with inadequacies from the point of view of international standards and regulations. This situation caused serious impacts on the rights of citizens. At least 23 people died during demonstrations, 16 of them because of the excessive use of force by security forces”, said Pazo.
“They are not only attacking people with tear gas, but they are shooting to kill. Several people were shot in the head”, added the Commissioner.
27 environmental defenders have been murdered from 2015 to 2017 in Honduras.
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